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Alternative therapies for arthritis treatment

June 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When you have osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear type of arthritis, every single step can be a struggle. There are surgeries and drugs with a long list of side effects that most patients try to avoid. But there are other options.

Some people are determined not to have surgery and only take medications if in severe pain.

One method that helps some is massage. Duke University's Doctor Adam Perlman launched a pilot study on massage for knee osteoarthritis. Patients who had massages twice a week for a month and then once a week for another month had less pain, better range of motion and faster walking speeds.

"And that improvement actually persisted eight weeks after massage was finished," said Perlman.

Another alternative is acupuncture.

"There is very interesting data suggesting that acupuncture can be effective particularly for arthritis of the knee," said Perlman.

In one study, 25 percent of arthritis patients who were scheduled for knee surgery canceled their procedures after acupuncture.

Glucosamine is another method to treat arthritis.

"The studies are conflicting about glucosamine," said Perlman.

Most studies show glucosamine sulfate at 1500 milligrams a day can help, but glucosamine hydrochloride is most commonly sold in the U.S. and does not help.

Another method to fight pain is to lose weight: Every pound you lose means 4 pounds' less pressure on your knees.

With some promising preliminary results, Dr. Perlman's arthritis massage study will continue.